23 March 2018
"God is Dead", Atheism, Basic Writings of Existentialism, Bob Dylan, Christianity, Communism, Essay, existentialism, Existentialism and Human Emotions, free will, Great Courses, Individual Will, Jean-Paul Sartre, Kapital, Karl Marx, letter, Literary and Philosophical Essays, Margot Robbie, Marxism, No Excuses: Existentialism and the Meaning of Life, Philosophy, religion, Robert C. Solomon, Totalitarianism, Wolf of WallStreet
I’m am greatly tempted to call myself an existentialist but I’ve never read Kapital by Karl Marx all the way through. I’ve never read Being and Nothingness either though so perhaps my desire for identity is just egomaniacal. This is all an overly distracting way of saying I’m thinking about adding another identity to myself alongside atheist, feminist, bisexual, and democrat, but the angry mob that chases me from place to place is already large enough and I don’t think adding angry philosophy professors and Marxists is really the best idea for this stage of life. Angry mobs are starting to unionize now and I can’t afford to pay for any more benefits, you understand of course.
I’m glad that you found the Nietzsche essay enjoyable, I’m positive that’s the first time that statement’s ever appeared in print, and I’m glad Charlie agrees with me that Margot Robbie is…is…
Ahem. I was uh…saying something.
I was happy to receive your letter, and in fact it was part of my motivation for beginning a new series of letters that we can share. If I understood, you correctly from a previous essay you have some questions about Existentialism. Let me be clear then. As with the atheist letters I am not placing myself as an authority of Existentialism as a movement for as of this writing I’m still learning the implications, ethos, methodology, and overall idea of the movement along with familiarizing myself with the writers who contributed the most to it. Like you, and I’m going off of your letter here, I was mostly taught that Existentialism was about meaninglessness of existence and how life was hollow and pointless and we were all going to die and there was no afterlife and so existence was pointless, the end.
Such is the cartoon character that is existentialism but not the reality. My little sister received the Great Courses audio lecture No Excuses: Existentialism and the Meaning of Life taught by Robert C. Solomon, and I’m positive that my regular readers are getting sick of hearing his name because I’ve mentioned it in like five to six essays in the last two months. I keep returning to these lectures however B—– because they’ve had a profound, and I don’t use that word lightly here, impact upon me. It’s been a lovely experience for me because despite the popular image of Existentialists flipping coins next to dead horses and screaming “why” to the heavens with a clenched fist, the philosophy I’ve been studying is actually positive and life affirming. The reason I’ve warmed up to Existentialism is because I finally understand what the Philosophy is about and I find a lot of the ideas since with my worldview already.
From this lecture, along with my other readings, I’ve come to the conclusion that Existentialism places responsibility above everything else, upon the individual and the choices they make.
Existentialism can be a bit brusque concerning institutions like Christianity, but the lecturer Robert C. Solomon does an excellent job demonstrating that many of the writings of these philosophers really pushes towards this idea that human life is its own and that people can and should embrace their choices for there is not only their mettle but also their character. This idea of choice is fascinating, and also validating since I have no choice but to believe in free will.
That’s a philosophy joke in case you missed it.
While the series covered Camus, Kierkegaurd, Nietzsche, and Heidegger, the last philosopher that Dr. Solomon discusses is Jean-Paul Sartre and, it should be noted, Solomon dedicates the last three tapes out of twelve to the man and his work. This is understandable seeing as how Sartre was essentially the champion of the Existentialist movement, giving it not only its name but also scores of writings and arguments to support it and, at times, apologize for it. Sartre as a man and writer is interesting, for not only was he awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature he refused the award becoming one of the first, and possibly only writer, to have done so. He spent most of his life writing, and it has been said that he supposedly wrote 20 pages of text a day, and when you remember that he wrote literature, philosophy, newspaper articles, magazine articles this becomes understandable but also incredibly incredible.
It also reminds that I really need to stop getting distracted while I write. I mean I start a review of a biography about Jim Henson or a sermon by Johnathan Edwards, and half an hour later I find myself drooling onto my keyboard while Google has pulled up somewhere around 100-200 pictures of Margot Robbie, and those are just the Harley Quinn Suicide Squad photos.
Solomon’s lecture wasn’t my first encounter with Sartre however. I stumbled across Sartre originally when my wife and I moved into her parents’ garage in a small apartment that had shower and A/C. Along with that was a filing cabinet filled with many of my mother-in-law’s books ranging from The Annals of Imperial Rome to Leaves of Grass to a small yellowed book titled Literary and Philosophical Essays. This was my first taste of Sartre, and while I recognized his talents I was pushed that summer towards Camus’s The Stranger instead and so Sartre went back on the bookshelf. It wasn’t until a few weeks back when my friend Christie mentioned that she and her girlfriend were moving and needed to get rid of some books…and honestly I can’t remember what happened next because I heard the word books and I began to growl and beat my chest making a “hungry” gesture. In the pile was a Modern Library copy titled Basic Writings of Existentialism, and opening the book I spotted the name Sartre again and turned to a passage simply titled Existentialism.
The essay was in fact an excerpt from one of Sartre’s longer works, Existentialism and Human Emotions, and was nothing but an apology, in the more historical sense, for the school of thought. From the beginning he makes his intention and concern clear:
First, it has been charged with inviting people to remain in a kind of desperate quietism because since no solutions are possible, we should have to consider action in this world as quite impossible. We should then end up in a philosophy of contemplation; and since contemplation is a luxury, we come in the end to a bourgeois philosophy. The communists in particular have made these charges. (341).
Sartre is working against a multi-fold front, and not just that dude in your history class who laughs when you tell him you’re majoring in philosophy. That ass-clown aside, Sartre is in a position where he has to defend his philosophical movement from those who either misunderstand his argument, or else his harshest critics which in this moment happen to be the Marxists. From afar it’s easy to understand why someone would look upon Existentialism with its calls to the freedom of the individual and the vital necessary role it places upon the idea of choice, as an elitist philosophy. If you’re working three jobs just to make ends meet, if you have four or five kids to take care of, if you tend to a sick parents or spouse your time is being constantly spent managing and satisfying the needs of others and so contemplation really isn’t a concrete reality. The people who have “time” tend to be rich people and so communists, who tend to despise rich people, would look upon a philosophy that seems to be nothing but air-headed contemplation with contempt.
Sartre however is calling bullshit on this and continuing. By addressing the criticism of his second set of critics, Christians. Once he has he makes the following claim:
In any case, what can be said from the very beginning is that by existentialism we mean a doctrine which makes human life possible and, in addition, declares that every truth and every action implies a human setting and a human subjectivity. (343).
On the next page follows this with:
Can it be that what really scares them in the doctrine I shall try to present here is that it leaves to man a possibility of choice? To answer this question, we must re-examine it on a strictly philosophical plane. What is meant by the term existentialism? (343).
Before I get to that I should probably answer the immediate question put forth by my seasoned contester B——-: who the hell cares? It’s philosophy. It’s a bunch of bullshit that doesn’t really matter except to a few hipsters who listen to Dylan on Vinyl, smoke a hookah, and complain that Camus is so yesterday man.
First of all, kudos to my contester for finally nailing hipsters who smoke hookahs. Seriously puffing one of those is apparently worse than smoking cigarettes yet for some reason people do it. Second, unfortunately you’re wrong, both about philosophy and Dylan on Vinyl. Dylan is sick on Vinyl, and philosophy has more relevance to human existence than most people really recognize. Existentialism is not about Metaphysics, the branch of philosophy that concerns itself with the nature of reality. Existentialism relies on the fact that there is a reality and that human beings occupy space within it. From there the life of man is about choices, but a second philosophic concern needs to be addressed.
Jean-Paul Sartre was an atheist, and apart from the Marxists who criticize the philosophy, Sartre spends a fair amount of the essay addressing the concerns of Christians who argue that Existentialism is inherently atheistic. Sartre doesn’t attempt to defend those existentialists who may be Christian, however it important to note B——– that Sartre does try to make sure that Existentialism is not declared nihilism.
In one passage he notes:
The existentialist is strongly opposed to a certain kind of secular ethics which would like to abolish God with the least possible expense. About 1880, some French teachers tried to set up a secular ethics which went something like this: God is useless and costly hypothesis; we are discarding it; but, meanwhile, in order for there to be an ethics, a society, a civilization, it is essential that certain values be taken seriously and that they be considered as having a priori existence.
The existentialist, on the contrary, think is it very distressing that God does not exist, because all possibility of finding values in a heaven of ideas disappears along with Him; there can be no longer be an a priori Good, since there is no infinite and perfect consciousness to think it. Nowhere is it written that good exists, that we must be honest, that we must not lie; because the fact is we are on a plane where there are only men. Dostoievsky[sic] said, “If God didn’t exist, everything would be possible.” That is the very starting point of existentialism. Indeed, everything is permissible if God does not exist, and as a result man is forlorn, because neither within him nor without does he find anything to cling to. He can’t start making excuses for himself. (349).
The first paragraph bothers me terribly and the second paragraph is painfully familiar. I’ll address the first part B—–. I distinctly remember one moment from my Intro to Philosophy class, and not just Dr. Krebs’s Hawaiin shirts and cowboy boots. We were discussing Ethics and at one point, after I had confessed to the class that I was an atheist, I argued that solipsism was a ridiculous position because it violated the basic principle that you should try to avoid being a dick to people. I argued that morality, or at least basic virtue towards other human beings was important. One of the students who I regularly talked to in class immediately asked, “Well what do you care, you’re an atheist.” This comment leads me to the second paragraph. When I was struggling with recognizing that I was an atheist my first thought was “if there’s no god then why should I be a good person?” This idea is not original for the very fact that Dostoyevsky wrote it and he lived at least a hundred years before I did.
Human beings look to god to find morality because god is beyond mortal understanding, as such he is ideal and beyond mortal constraints. The conflict however is that often the model of god that many Christians worship is not a philosophical god, but a purely benevolent creature that is static and does work well with moral grey area. As such whenever Christians hear phrases like “God is Dead,” or “You Don’t need god to be moral,” there is usually a violent reaction. I can attest to this for when I still had my faith I clung to the idea that it because of god that humans, and by extension myself, had to be moral or else all chaos would ensue. The conflict with this is that it is bullshit and reveals painful weakness.
If the reason human beings are moral is because they believe god exists it says a great deal about their so-called morality. I do believe however that Sartre makes a mistake arguing that the absence of god is the start of existentialism for there were some existentialists who believe in god. Despite naysayers Nietzsche believed in some kind of divinity, and Søren Kierkegaard wrote many essays and tracts on Christianity. Sartre pushes atheism because he himself is an atheist, and anyone who assumes that they cannot be an existentialist and someone who believes in god is simply trying to apply a particular brand of existentialism.
Sartre finishes his essay by addressing the absence of god by pointing out that it really doesn’t matter:
It isn’t trying to plunge man into despair at all. But if one calls every attitude of unbelief despair, like the Christians, then the word is not being used in its original sense. Existentialism isn’t so atheistic that it wears itself out showing that God doesn’t exist. Rather, it declares that even if God did exist, that would change nothing. There you’ve got our point of view. Not that we believe God exists, but we think that the problem of His existence is not the issue. (366-7).
Looking at this B—– I return to the image of the man lying in a ditch beside the dead horse and screaming “why” with clenched fist towards the heavens. While this letter has focused mostly on Sartre’s atheism in the essay Existentialism, I do want it to serve as a kind of starting point. Sartre points out that it doesn’t matter ultimately whether or not god exists because it isn’t god that will make an individual person’s life. Existentialism is first and foremost a philosophy that argues that choices are what makes human beings who they are, and in fact those choices create our reality. Living in the age that we do Existentialism seems all the more important to consider since our life is made up of choices:
It may seem trivial or cliché from afar B——, but these little choices assume meaning for who we are, and what we make our life. Sartre’s essay is largely a defense, but it’s also a reminder that free will, or more importantly what we do with free will, is what makes our species unique. By adopting philosophies like Marxism or Christianity, both institutions that tend to usurp individual will, humans are rejecting the most important facet of their reality.
This is just a start B—-, and I’ll continue to try to answer any and all questions you have, and I’ll continue recommending books and essays for you to read. Just remember that personal ideologies and philosophies are never static. They are constantly being updated and altered and changed, and so right now Existentialism is young and flexible. Just keep writing and we’ll keep talking it out.
As the last part of your letter all I can say is, I told you so. Girls like it when you do stuff for them and don’t expect anything in return. For the record it’s kind of sad when you’re the woman I have to be telling you this stuff, but that’s reinforcing bad stereotypes. As per your second question, yes Margot Robbie is in Wolf of Wallstreet so it’s more than likely your girlfriend wants to watch it so she can see her naked, or else lounging seductively in a couch wearing nothing but her underwear and….and…
Anyway, have fun. I’m told it’s a good movie, then again it’s Scorsese so how could it not be? Until next time.
Sincerely, yours in the best of confidence and support,
Joshua “Jammer” Smith
If you were at all interested B—-, I found a blogpost about Sartre refusing the Nobel Prize. If you’re interested follow the link below:
I know I’ve mentioned Margot Robbie a lot in this essay B—–, but here’s a bit of a secret, I actually think Kate Micucci is a lot cuter, but then again I’m a sucker for brunette’s with a sharp sense of humor.
"God is Dead", Atheism, Basic Writings of Existentialism, Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Christianity, Essay, existentialism, flowers, Friedrich Nietzsche, Individual Will, Jean-Paul Sartre, Jenna Jameson, Lesbian Porn, letter, Lex Luthor, Margot Robbie, Masturbation, Modernity, Nietzsche is NOT an atheist, Philosophy, religion, religious corruption, The AntiChrist, The Gay Science, The Portable Nietzsche
To be honest with you, living where I do in this country, I thought that Obama was supposed to be the Anti-Christ, or at least that’s what bumper-stickers tell me. I suppose it’s a fair mistake to make given the fact that misunderstood Philosophical masterpieces by German Philosophers tend to get filed on the shortlist of required reading in East Texas schools, and Nietzsche himself tends to be blacklisted more than Maya Angelou in this particular territory but only because he doesn’t include enough pictures of Margot Robbie.
I’ll stop trying to be being clever now and actually get to it
It was lovely to receive your letter and I so apologize for not having written for some time. Ending Graduate School has left me in an odd “limbo” where I have no idea what is next, what to do, or even what to think or read sometimes. I’ve jumped into philosophy for the most part, specifically existentialism, and while some would immediately say “huh boy” and prepare for the black turtleneck ensembles and Poetry slams with bongos about meaninglessness about existence, I’ve discovered a real purpose and drive in the philosophy. Life begins to make a little more sense as an existentialist because once you’re able to not worry about god and the afterlife, the choices you make really matter more because they’re all you’ve got. That’s part of what lead me to Nietzsche.
Before I get into it though I’m glad to hear about you and Charlie. Moving in together is a big step, and it can be rocky, but trust me once the two of you have your rhythms down it’s actually quite lovely having somebody waiting for you at home. It just gets frustrating when you’ve had a long day at work, and you come home from heavy traffic and you’re tired and frustrated at Barry from work, and when you drop your shit your partner walks up and says “we need groceries.” Apart from that, just remember that it’s fun and worth it over the long term. Also remember to occasionally buy her flowers or her favorite candy for no reason. It makes her feel loved, and you’ll find that it actually makes you feel like you’ve actually done something really nice.
Now as to Nietzsche what first needs to be resolved is the fact that his book The AntiChrist is not about atheism, and in fact Nietzsche was not an atheist himself. Many half-assed theologians and priests like to damn the man for his largely misunderstood comment in The Gay Science that “God is Dead.” By labeling him an atheist though it’s important to recognize that these particular theologians and priests are not only half-assed in their methodology, they’re also bad readers. Nietzsche doesn’t end the sentence on “dead,” he says “God is dead, and Man has killed him” and this has implications for the reader because it questions what many people, at least people in the United States, are raised to believe. When Nietzsche wrote this line more contemporary scientific methods and innovations were coming into being, and the notion of Modernity was becoming something relevant and important. In this atmosphere the Abrahamic god was becoming an anachronism to Nietzsche, yet still Christianity was adapting to it, or really fighting through it, and in this struggle the man found something to detest.
At first glance B——, and by that I mean simply looking at the title, many would assume that The AntiChrist is a book about God and Satan. In fact, the book is about the institution of Christianity and the modern man, particularly its effect upon him.
After arguing that mankind has not “progressed” in his new age he points to Christianity and says:
Christianity has sided with all that is weak and base, with all failures; it has made an ideal of whatever contradicts in spirit by teaching men to consider the supreme values of the spirit as something sinful, as something that leads into error as temptations. (571-2).
It may look B—– that I have in fact only confirmed the bias of many steadfast Christians who detest or distrust Friedrich Nietzsche because he is a godless contemptible atheist, but a closer inspection of this thesis and the rest of the book yields a different fact. It’s impossible to say that The AntiChrist doesn’t criticize Christianity, but it’s important to note that Nietzsche is not criticizing god. Nietzsche is often listed among the Existentialists, even though the man and his work was more of a precursor to that philosophical movement, and one of the largest misunderstandings of the general public is what Existentialism actually is. For the last two weeks I’ve been trying to finish an essay about another essay by the French hyper-intellectual Jean-Paul Sartre (that dude who wrote No Exit that weird play you had to read in High School about the three people in hell, and one of them was a lesbian or something). The essay is literally titled Existentialism, and in it Sartre lays out the ideas of the movement.
Explaining what is the goal of existentialism he says:
Thus, Existentialism’s first move is to make every man aware of what he is and to make the full responsibility of his existence rest on him. And when we say that a man is responsible for himself, we do not only mean that he is responsible for his own individuality, but that he is responsible for all men. (346).
The latter part of that quote goes into one of Sartre’s idea which is referred to as “being for others” but that’s for another essay. Sartre, like Camus and Dostoyevsky, and Nietzsche, places all of man’s life into his own hands, and that B—- is largely why Nietzsche’s criticism of Christianity is seen as atheistic or satanic. People are missing the fact that he’s attacking the human institution and not the divine.
He demonstrates this clearly in one later passages when he discusses priests:
The priest devalues, desecrates nature: this is the price of his existence. Disobedience of God, that is, of the priest, of “the Law,” is not called “sin”; the means for “reconciliation with God” are, as is meet, means that merely guarantee still more through submission to the priest: the priest alone “redeems.”
Psychologically considered, “sins” become indispensable in any society organized by priests: they are the real handles of power. The priest lives on sins, it is essential for him that people “sin.” Supreme principle: “God forgives those who repent”—in plain language” those who submit to the priest. (597-8).
I do wonder B—–, whether philosophers were fun to hang out with at parties sometimes, but right now my aim is philosophy and not the bottle (that’s for when I finish this letter). It’s easy B—-, to mistake Nietzsche’s criticism of priests in this passage as attacks upon the individual members of Christianity. After all, the priest does serve as either the conduit or else a spiritual guide to the divine, and by attacking the priests as spiritual leeches he implicates individual Christians as falling for the deception. I can’t in good conscience say though that this is Nietzsche suggesting that mankind doesn’t possess intelligence, but looking to Sartre’s point in Existentialism, there seems to be a more important idea here.
Nietzsche is noting that the modern man, the creature who has founded industry, nations, and scientific advancement it not fashioning a god that should give him strength or inspire new innovation. Rather the god that exists is either an antique of the infancy of the species that is holding mankind back, or else it is duplicitous lie fashioned by corrupt individuals who derive some kind of pleasure over having power over others. This isn’t an unfounded idea because in my youth I struggled with the concept of sin, and I know this being rather personal B—-, but my sin was masturbation.
As I wrote in recent essay I eventually discovered pornography when I was a young teenager, and while my parents had taught me about honestly and freely about sex ever since I was a kid, I have no real explanation for the religious struggle I experienced at first watching this. Like many young men I became fascinated/horrified by “lesbian porn” (which really isn’t an honest presentation of lesbianism since most of the women in those videos are perfectly willing to sleep with men too). The thought that two women, and by implication two men, could be attracted to each other sexually was something that my mind, and my environment at school, taught me was a sin, yet despite this it was a core sexual fantasy that I engaged in. Masturbation should have been something fun and enjoyable, but instead I compartmentalized it as a sin because the visiting priests, football coaches, and teachers would say it was, and so not knowing any better I cursed myself as I indulged in fantasies and self-abuse. I eventually got over this, though when the girls in my imagination eventually started becoming men too that started me on a long arduous path that I’ve explored in other essays, but I wanted to use this example B—– because it demonstrates a facet of Nietzsche’s argument.
It was through Priests (Baptist priests though, the Episcopal Priests never damned masturbation or homosexuality, and in fact they were some of the few who argued there was nothing wrong with it) that I saw masturbation as a sin, and this corruption of “thought crime” was implanted because the priests wanted to make sure nothing got between me and god. If a young boy is masturbating rather than praying or reading the Bible then he will begin to see no relevance of Christianity, and if he eventually drops his religion then there is no control. This was the attitude that I eventually began to observe in priests, and why I tend to distrust their supposed motivations. They always came with smiles B—–, and soft voices, and careful guarded warnings, but beneath that was always a power move.
That is contemporary Christianity, but even so in Nietzsche’s time this is still relevant for the “Modern Man” who was a cog in the wheel of machinery had only a finite amount of free time. A worker worked, and that remaining time was when he was afforded some freedom. Realistically the man would most often spend his wages on beer which would lead to temperance movements later on, but that space of time afforded man either some leisure or contemplation. As such the Church sought to dominate that time, however rather than recreate a god that would fit with contemporary innovation and progress, the Church held dogmatically to the old god as Nietzsche explains:
The Christian conception of God—God as god of the sick, God as a spider, God as a spirit—is one of the most corrupt conceptions of the divine ever attained on earth. It may even represent the low-water mark in the descending development of divine types. God degenerated into the contradiction of life, instead of being its transfiguration and eternal Yes! God as the declaration of war against life, against nature, against the will to live! God—the formula for every slander against “this world,” for every lie about the “beyond”! God—the deification of nothingness, the will to nothingness pronounced holy! (585-6).
This is another one of those quotes B—– that, while I’ve marked it in my copy of The AntiChrist with several stars, will probably only confirm a Christian’s bias against Nietzsche. It’s no longer acceptable to challenge faith because people don’t like to be challenged. They don’t like to grow. It may be my religious background, but I was always taught that the only way to grow faith, or lack-thereof, is to have your position challenged so that you can re-assess what it is that you actually believe.
Looking at this presentation of god I feel validated for Nietzsche perfectly explains what has always been my criticism of the divine that exists in mass Christianity. The god that exists is not a god that is to be understood and reconciled, it just is. Therefore, the Christian has only to accept god and then enter a state of eternal bliss.
To this, I respond bullshit.
The god that Nietzsche is criticizing is this perfect being but as Lex Luthor explained in Superman Vs. Batman: Dawn of Justice:
Lex Luthor: See, what we call God depends upon our tribe, Clark Joe, ’cause God is tribal; God takes sides! No man in the sky intervened when I was a boy to deliver me from daddy’s fist and abominations. I figured out way back if God is all-powerful, He cannot be all good. And if He is all good, then He cannot be all-powerful. And neither can you be.
For the record B—– I hated the movie in theatres, but loved the extended cut. Definitely see it. And for the record I am counting the days down until I can see Suicide Squad. Before you say anything it’s because the movie looks awesome and not just Margot Robbie is playing…playing…playing…
Ahem. Where was I? Uh…Harley Quinn wasn’t it?
Oh no, sorry Nietzsche Nietzsche. Sorry.
Anyway B—–, the point I’m trying to demonstrate is that the god Nietzsche is criticizing really hasn’t altered all that much and that in itself is damning. Religion is part of human culture, and while it tries to conform or adapt to contemporary settings, the real problem with this is that it’s nature shows more and more with each passing decade. The printing of “Teen Study Bibles” that exorcise lengthy and disturbing passages for the sake of winning over youth reveals this. The seducing of Lot by his daughters was never brought up in Sunday school because the god who was lax on incest was the same god who inspired the Psalms. Nietzsche is trying to argue that the god that exists does not challenge human beings to consider the real morality of his being, or the complexities of his universe. Rather than realizing that if god is all powerful he’s responsible for rape, murder, and torture, many choose to simply embrace an all loving god and drop the subject there.
For Nietzsche, and myself B——, this is a problem because it is painfully solipsistic, and while I could continue B—–, providing example after example, I just want to add one more quote before I end. Nietzsche remarks:
At this point I do not suppress a sigh. There are days when I am afflicted with a feeling blacker than the blackest melancholy—contempt of man. And to leave no doubt concerning what I despise, whom I despise: it is the man of today, the man with whom I am fatefully contemporaneous. […] I go through the madhouse world of whole millennia, whether it be called “Christianity,” “Christian faith,” or “Christian church”—I am careful not to hold mankind responsible for its mental orders. But my feeling changes, breaks down, as soon as I enter modern times, our time. Our time knows better. (610-11).
I’ve said a lot here B—-, and I worry some of it was incoherent, but ultimately my concern was not to explain out an atheistic concept, but rather to defend Nietzsche from the title I so happily embrace. Many point to Nietzsche, and his rather bushy moustache, as a champion of godlessness, but those fools who try and hurl such mud only wind up looking like fools themselves.
In life Nietzsche felt there was nothing so contemptible as a man who lives without passions, and looking at the Church, not god, he saw an institution that drained and sapped passion from a grand source of ideas. Whether or not there is a god is one of the most important aspects of our reality, but simply believing in god does not make life simple, and Nietzsche’s The AntiChrist is a fight against those who would drain god of his unique philosophical position. Christianity becomes a vice rather than a source of inspiration because for many it is either a social club, a crutch from which to avoid discomfort, or else the source of a disturbing masochism rooted in the thought-crime of “sin” and Nietzsche is criticizing that.
His aim is to attack the church because man has entered into a new world, and rather than allow his notion of the divine to change he has become a slave to history and outdated philosophy. The question becomes B—–, shall Christianity adapt to the new stage of human evolution and society, or will it desperately cling to the idea that the source of all life and being honestly gives a flippin fuck about whether or not somebody masturbates to a Jenna Jameson video.
I’ll leave you to figure that out.
And seriously, buy your girl some flowers, she’ll appreciate it. Just make sure you get her favorite type or else that will get awkward, and she won’t want to hurt your feelings and so she’ll lie and then you’ll keep buying those and then ten years in she’ll confess she hates that type of flower and your feelings will get hurt and then…well you get it. Start with Roses and work your way from there.
Sincerely, yours in the best of confidence and support,
Joshua “Jammer” Smith
All my quotes from Existentialism were taken from The Modern Library edition of Basic Writings of Existentialism. All quotes from The AntiChrist were cited from the Penguin edition of The Portable Nietzsche, edited and translated by Walter Kaufmann.
For the record I did nothing but listen to Allison Kraus on Pandora while writing this letter B—-, which I find hysterical since most of her songs are either spiritual in nature, or else outright hymns and Christian folk-songs. This B—–, is what is sometimes referred to as Cognitive Dissonance, but I’ll accept that because every now and then the O, Brother Where Art Thou Soundtrack will come on and you know I love me some Soggy Bottom Boys.
One last note, as for your question about your girlfriend’s folder on her computer full of photos of Margot Robbie, I really don’t have anything for you except the sentiment: can you really blame her? I mean I…I…I…what was I saying?
"pride goeth before the fall", Academic Book, Aerosmith, Albert Camus, Christopher Hitchens, Confession, Ego, existentialism, Hank Williams Sr., I've Been Down That Road Before, Jean-Baptiste Clamence, Jean-Paul Sartre, Laughter, letters to a young contrarian, Literature, Meursault, Michel Foucault, No Excuses: Existentialism and the Meaning of Life, Novel, Philosophy, Ponts des Artes, Robert C. Solomon, The Fall, The History of Sexuality Vol.1, The Stranger
Now take the smart aleck in any town of him folks want no part He acts like his head was only made to hold his ears apart Now he might not like what I’m bout to say and my words might make him sore But I’m just tryin’ to be helpful cause I’ve been down that road before
–Hank Williams Sr, I’ve Been Down That Road before
Here’s what happened. A man of strong character heard some laughter, got punched during a fight after a fender bender, didn’t help a young woman who committed suicide, and after these three perils he began to drink and fornicate until he was penniless and dying all while confessing these list of actions (or sometimes lack thereof) to a complete stranger. Such is the last work of Albert Camus, the man who defined how to hold a cigarette in your mouth with no hands without looking like a jackass, and also one of the most important French writers and novelists of the twentieth century. It should be noted though that it was the first part that made him famous. Okay that’s a lie but I’m uncomfortable if I’m not making bad jokes that really aren’t funny and the book is not terribly uplifting so any and all humor I can slip in I can.
Over the last few weeks I’ve been listening to No Excuses: Existentialism and the Meaning of Life by Robert C. Solomon, a tenured professor of philosophy at UT Austen, and he began his series of lectures with the works of Albert Camus. I wasn’t a stranger to the man or his work for I had actually read The Stranger, and even written a small essay about comparing it to the graphic novel Batman: Year One. I had also managed to find a few books of his essays that belonged to my mother-in-law which I devoured that summer after I was married and living in her garage. My wife got to sleep in the house and occasionally they brought me food, but tell you what those rats were vicious and my chains were thick. I found solace in Camus, and even after I read his essay The Myth of Sisyphus I recognized that Camus was an author I should have been reading in high school rather than Tom Stoppard. Solomon, to get back to the main point spent the first five lectures discussing Camus before he eventually moved on to Husserl (which he pronounced Huss-er-erl, dare you to try and pronounce that) and during one of the lectures he discussed Camus’s final novel The Fall.
I was curious about the book because I had absolutely adored The Stranger, and so when my family went to Half Priced Books I decided to grab a copy and begin reading.
Jean-Paul Sartre, a long time friend of Camus and the man who established Existentialism by giving the movement a name and direction, once referred to The Fall as Camus’s most misunderstood novel. Part of it may simply be because the novel was the man’s last before he died in a car accident, a kind of death which Camus had called Un Morte Imbecille, but it may also be because of the actual contents of the book. I’ve already provided a small synopsis of the plot, but a little more detail is necessary.
The protagonist of the book, the man who confesses his life story to the nameless stranger who at times becomes by extension the reader of the book, is Jean-Baptiste Clamence a former lawyer from Paris who has seemingly lost everything. The book is written as a series of one-sided conversations by Baptiste who describes in detail his “fall from grace,” and after reading the opening of his first confession one can accurately refer to it as such:
A few years ago I was a lawyer in Paris and, indeed, a rather well-known lawyer. Of course, I didn’t tell you my real name. I had a specialty: noble cases. Widows and orphans, as the saying goes—I don’t know why, because there are improper widows and ferocious orphans. Yet it was enough for me to sniff the slightest scent of victim on a defendant for me to swing into action. And what action! A real tornado! You really would have thought that justice slept with me every night. (17).
He continues this on the next page:
Furthermore, I was buoyed up by two sincere feelings: the satisfaction of being on the right side of the bar and an instinctive scorn for judges in general. (18).
Clamence has scorn for judges because he cannot perceive how a man could place himself in that position. It stands that there is most likely a messiah complex going on in Clamence, for he perceives honor in defending the criminal against judges and he derives great satisfaction from this work looking upon himself almost as a kind of superman. This isn’t hyperbole on my part for he actually says such:
Yes, few creatures were more natural than I. I was altogether in harmony with life, fitting into it from top to bottom without rejecting any of its ironies, its grandeur, or its servitude.
To tell the truth, just from being so fully and simply a man, I looked upon myself as something of a superman. (28).
Clamence then is ultimately driven by ego, and any seasoned reader will recognize the rather platitude that pride goeth before the fall. Camus establishes his protagonist as a man who sees himself above the crowd of the masses, and even his supposed selflessness for the less fortunate becomes simply an extension for his ego. Men like Clamence abound in our human societies, and while the attitude “don’t be a smarty-pants” can sometimes buffer a brilliant person’s ego, Clamence’s story becomes a fascinating exploration of how individual people can plummet in spirit, reputation, and individual strength. Far better critics and theorists have poured over Camus’s final novel and derived lessons from it, and for my own part I wanted to understand at least the first part of Clamence’s fall from grace.
When the reader first hears Clamence speak he’s talking in a tavern in Amsterdam, his legal career long gone, and he spends most of his days drinking and debauching. He informs the nameless listener that he came to this state after experiencing three individual traumas. It’s the first trauma that stands out to me, for in many ways it is the most familiar. Clamence describes the event after he has just won yet another legal case:
I had gone up on the Ponts des Artes, deserted at that hour, to look at the river that could hardly be made out now night has come. Facing the statue of Vert-Galant, I dominated the island. I felt rising within me a vast feeling of power and—I don’t know how to express it—of compulsion, which cheered my heart. I straightened up and was about to light a cigarette, when, at that very moment, a laugh burst out behind me. Taken by surprise, I suddenly wheeled around; there was no one there. (38-39).
This passage may at first seem like something out of Stephen King, and when Clamence would turn the statue would suddenly have no face, and when he turned around there would be a gasp as a Lovecraftian nightmare would appear and drag him to the realm of the old gods and…well you can read it for yourself. The point is that this laughter appears at the height of Clamence’s sense of victory and as he’s about to enjoy the simple pleasure of a cigarette the laughter emerges and cuts him to his core. Now the sudden appearance of laughter is nothing malevolent for Clamence explains it out further:
At the same time I became aware of the rapid beating of my heart. Please don’t misunderstand me; there was nothing mysterious about that laugh; it was a good, hearty, almost friendly laugh, which re-established the proper proportions. […] That evening as I rang up a friend, who wasn’t at home. I was hesitating about going out when, suddenly, I heard laughter under my windows. I opened them. On the sidewalk, in fact, some youths were loudly saying good night. I shrugged my shoulders as I closed the windows; after all, I had a brief to study. I went into the bathroom to drink a glass of water. My reflection was smiling in the mirror, but it seemed to me that my smile was double… (39-40).
The Fall possesses no outright supernatural elements like ghosts, demons, imps, or aliens but the sudden appearance and disappearance of the laughter, coupled with this final impression of the mirror, both work together to heighten Clamence’s impression and distract him from his pleasures. I have no intention of explaining these elements out as figures of otherworldly forces attempting to cause Clamence to fall, and in fact I’m positive neither does Camus. During his life, Camus strived to explore the implication of action, not simply physical but also mental action, for in his novel The Stranger Meursault’s apathy is often a choice that leads him down a particular path. By not caring that his mother is dead or shooting the arab on the beach he surrenders his ability to really make the choice to exist and be in the world. Clamence likewise suffers a similar problem, however unlike Meursault who is guided by apathy for the world in general, Clamence is wrapped up in his passion for his work which is ultimately an expression of his own vanity.
At this point the reader may ask so what? What relevance does Clamence hearing some laughter have to somebody on the street who’s never even heard of Albert Camus or The Fall. By the sounds of it the novel’s just some guy bullshitting in a bar to make himself feel special.
My regular contester has hit on something in the final part of their critique. Clamence is speaking to a nameless figure, he is confessing to a nameless figure and that distinction is important. Unless you’re Catholic (I was raised Episcopal which, as Robin Williams so brilliantly put, is “Catholic Light, same religion, half the guilt”) the idea of confessing something to someone is a rather abstract concept. It’s something people do in Soap Operas when they’ve cheated on their husband or wife. Clamence at first doesn’t seem to have anything to confess. He’s a failed lawyer and now a drunk, but looking back to the fact that the person listening is never named or described changes the way a person reads The Fall because over time it becomes clear Clamence is not addressing an unknown person, he’s speaking directly to the reader.
This is important then because the first question that emerges is: why is confessing to us? The second question is: what power do we have over Clamence that he should confess to us? And of course the third question would be: are we in any position to grant him any kind of pardon.
These questions aren’t without merit. Michel Foucault, a man that many in the existentialist camp found frustrating and not just because he looked great in a turtleneck, explored this notion in his book The History of Sexuality Volume 1 when he describes the role of confession in human society:
The confession is a ritual of discourse in which the speaking subject is also the subject of the statement; it is also a ritual that unfolds within a power relationship, for one does not confess without the presence (or virtual presence) of a partner who is not simply the interlocutor but the authority who requires the confession, prescribes and appreciates it, and intervenes in order to judge, punish, forgive, console, and reconcile. (61-2).
That was incredibly academic and thick, but breaking it down simply Foucault is suggesting that when a person is confession to another they are placing the listener into a position of power. This really isn’t an unfamiliar concept. When a friend shares a secret they are ultimately confessing it to you, thus giving you power over them. By the way Jessica told me that Taylor totally, and I mean look at me, totally has a crush on Brandon. Confessing is placing the self in the power of another person and so looking at Clamence a problem ensues: if he’s about his fall to us he gives us power over him.
The first part of the confession is about the laughter, for after he hears it his life begins to steadily unrail. It doesn’t end, for there are two other events in his life that will break him, but the laughter begins his problems, and because he’s confessing to us he is by implication asking us to consider whether or not he is a weak man for failing at the sound of that laughter. This is hard to say because I myself am not immune to this. Whenever I hear laughter I assume that it is because of me. Part of that may be being the un-athletic kid in school for many years, or my tendency to forget to zip up my fly which brings my wife endless amusement, but it’s also a narcissism on my part for I am in many ways a selfish and vain man. Case and point, I honestly believe somebody gives a shit about my opinion on a novel by Camus.
This fear of laughter is hardwired into me and so I find it difficult to really condemn Clamence, though it does make me think of Christopher Hitchens. I’ve written before about how one of my favorite books is letters to a young contrarian, a book which acts as a series of lessons for those who wish to prepare themselves for regularly challenging the established quo. There’s one passage in particular that stands out to me as I consider this:
Laughter can be the most unpleasant sound; it’s an essential element in mob conduct and is part of the background noise of taunting and jeering at lynching’s and executions. Very often, crowds or audiences will augh complicity or slavishly, just to show they “see” the joke and are all together. […] It’s therefore not true to say, as some optimists do, that humor is essentially subversive. It can be an appeal to the familiar and clichéd a source of reassurance through shared hilarity. (116).
Laughter is a sound that, by its nature, is built to deconstruct. There’s a reason that dictators keep an eye on writers and comedians, because laughter can remind people that everyone is equal in their humanity particularly their weaknesses. Looking at Clamance it’s no mistake that Camus decides upon seemingly source less laughter to ruin the man’s moment of vanity. Clamence believed himself to be a superman, but for a moment he felt a real terror for the laughter reminded him that he wasn’t immune from weakness and thus begins his “fall from grace.”
There is more to the novel, but looking at this I wanted to explore the idea of one impression. Laughter is what breaks Clamence, and as the reader considers their own life, and the burden of power as they receive the man’s confession, it falls upon them to decide whether or not they are implicated in the man’s fall, or at least, whether they can judge him without wondering if they could find themselves in the exact same place.
For the record the title is borrowed from a song by Aerosmith. You can enjoy the song, and don’t worry its good early Aerosmith, by following the link below:
While I was researching for this one I did go to Wikipedia (bash me later) for resources (Ha, got you) and to see if there were any details in the plot that I missed (got me again) and I noticed at the bottom there was a link to a small essay about Camus’s use of religious imagery in the novel. If you’re interested follow the link below:
There is a sad truth about human life in society: you are in a game. You are given only your integrity and then challenged, pushed, and bullied in order to see how long you can last before you sell it out. The woman or man who wins the game is both despised and feared. This precedes the fact that they will and must be destroyed in order for the game to continue.
In The Stranger by Albert Camus(also known as The Outsider which suggests enough for the argument at hand) the reader encounters a man by the name of Meursault, a vaguely described person of interest, who assumes the weight of being against the crowd when he ceases to mourn over the loss of his mother. MeurNow while this pessimistic stance on humanity is not an original one (George Carlin, Nietzsche, and Socrates seemed to express this idea numerous times in numerous ways) like all sentiments expressed through my work, it is only an effort to . While the internet has helped social activity blossom in new ways there is still the threat of anonymity which allows license to crude and, most unfortunate for those that possess a semblance of civility, malicious behavior against any who seem to stand opposed to whatever ideology or opinion they hold dear. I can assure this essay is not another hammed up assault on the internet for this temperament against dissenters is not restricted to the World web. Television broadcasts, radio programs, magazine articles, poorly constructed political blogs, and even those bounteous (may I never use that stale phrase “sacred”) items known as books are not free from the ravenous hatred of popular opinion.sault himself does provide some insight into the relationship, but not enough to gain a real understanding of it. All that can be arrived at is that she was living in a home(the colloquial expression for overly depressing drop zone for burdens) because he did not have the financial means to support her. Returning to the south of France, Meursault immediately takes on significance in the eyes of his fellow-man for his lack of emotion. Before any devout readers of Camus arise to condemn me(it’s Camus for fuck’s sake! Haven’t you ever read the man) it must be remembered that loss is one of the most dreadful inevitabilities on the road to character building. As of this writing I still possess a mother (who never ceases to ask if there is anything I need or if I am well, thank you as always Mother dear) and a father and have yet to lose them to mortality, therefore the emotion I should feel is somewhat strange to me. I understand the emotion inspired only from thought of losing someone who I care about, and believe me it is enough. Meursault seems however to feel nothing. The first line is enough to gain that impression.
“Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don’t know. I got a telegram from the home: “Mother deceased. Funeral tomorrow. Faithfully yours.” That doesn’t mean anything. Maybe it was yesterday.”
The death of someone close to us is a date we tend to remember. Meursault treats the death as if it was the passing of weather. Numerous writers and Philosophers (including Jean Paul Satre which I only discovered upon beginning this essay to my delight and exasperation) have written extensively upon this short and excellent work, even Camus himself. But to return to Meursault, it is crucial to observe a little bit more concerning his character . The writing of The Stranger is perhaps one of most noted and important aspects of the book. Any who have opened the pages of Dostoyevsky or Tolstoy are aware of the long dramatic sequences of prose that challenge the reader to overcome them and truly observe the book and craft being employed. Other who have read (the incredibly missed author) Cormac McCarthy are aware of a brilliant simplicity that interacts with long sentences that stretch like the malevolent and sublime settings in which his characters interact. The name Nabokov (cursed and blessed to be hounded by the masterwork of that little nymphet Dolores Haze until the end of time it seems) stands as a testament to what the English language is capable of. What then of The Stranger?
“I wanted to smoke a cigarette at the window, but the air was getting colder and I felt a little chilled. I shut the window, and as I was coming back I glanced at the mirror and saw a corner of my table with my alcohol lamp and some pieces of bread. It occurred to me anyway that another Sunday was over, that Maman was buried now, that I was going back to work, and that, really, nothing had changed.”
Observe the sentence structure. The details and components of the space are not eloquently described. They are components of a reality, and a dull one at that. Meursault is a simple man possessed with few, if any real convictions except his own innocence by the end of the novel, but even that is taken with an apathetic sentiment. The Stranger is written with the utmost simplicity, the likes of which would have made the bloated Hemingway himself go screaming for a thesaurus. This is not anything on Camus’s ability as a writer, for if one observes any of his other texts one understands the significance of the man and his contribution to prose. The Stranger’s diction is purposefully restricted so that Meursault’s apathy becomes absolutely clear. Humbert Humbert observed in Lolita, “You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style.” It is clear Humbert Humbert never had the chance to read The Stranger because Merusalt’s account of his incarceration and trial can be considered anything but “fancy.” “Fancy” wishes it could come in and re-arrange the curtains!
So what? What does the story of a man who’s a heartless bastard have anything to do with the weight of society against the individual? Camus answers this question for us.
I summarized The Stranger a long time ago, with a remark I admit was highly paradoxical: “In our society any man who does not weep at his mother’s funeral runs the risk of being sentenced to death.” I only meant that the hero of my book is condemned because he does not play the game.
The last line assumes critical significance in consideration the original argument. We have all at some point in our lives had our integrity challenged. Whether it be as children or adults, there will always be instances in which we have to decide whether to cave into the pressure from those around us or stand firm in our convictions. For myself it is often the question of whether to answer honestly about my religious stance. I admit I have on at least two occasions answered this unfortunate question in a vague Christian position(technically I “was” raised Episcopal), however it should be noted that I was young and had not yet fully come to terms with being a skeptic and atheist (also being in East Texas where guns and Christianity seem to be passionate bed-mates it’s best to observe Patsy’s philosophy in the brilliant musical Spamalot when asked why he has not come forward as a Jew, “It’s not the thing you broadcast next to a well armed Christian). However since I have come to terms with my atheism I have since on several occasions been honest and generously forthcoming about my lack of faith. This personal account is not advertizing my atheism, but supplying an example in which integrity is called forth to action.
Perhaps another example is needed, and so I turn to Batman.
Not actually Batman, but a character that receives just as much esteem within the comic franchise, a character by the name of James Gordon. If one is looking for an analogous character we must consider the case of Gordon in Frank Miller’s (splendid and brilliantly executed) graphic novel Batman: Year One. Immediately the question arises, am I deliberately choosing Gordon to boost the reception level of the essay (for what serious minded person would waste their time on superhero comics)? The answer is simple. No. I have written on the character of Batman before and believe comics to be a worthwhile literary medium, but a defense, or apology for those who prefer a more classic label will have to wait.
If we observe the case of Jim Gordon in the graphic novel the circumstances are not that different from Mersault, only the character of each men. James Gordon is (“disgraced” may too strong a word and “soiled” makes one consider sheets and houseplants so let us instead be satisfied with “dishonored” for now) new to the town of Gotham and it becomes clear through his internal monologue (an often too-employed trope in comics but within this text successfully accomplished) that he is the only cop in Gotham willing to take any kind of ethical stand against the relentless corruption. Crooked cops such as Commissioner Loeb, Lieutenant Flass, and SWAT commander Branden commit assault and murder without even attempting to mask their efforts in the veil of public order. Gordon refuses to turn a blind eye resulting in him being beaten to a pulp.
Such is the inevitable result and reward for individuals and dissidents in our society. Those who decide to allow their integrity to stand firm must suffer the physical scorn of the supposed “in-the-right.” One leaps to the scores of confessions and testimonies of political refugees who have been tortured for speaking against the majority will. Perhaps two examples would say it best, there are prison systems within the Middle East, most notably Iran and Saudi Arabia, those hotbeds of good old-fashioned religious conservatism, where there exist laws that state a woman cannot be executed if she is a virgin. How then do you tackle this solution? The answer is as simple as it is revolting. A guard, or guards if they feel up to it, will rape a woman thereby eliminating the title of virgin to her name and allowing the government the right to execute her with all the dignity it takes to shoot her in the back of the head behind the custodian’s shed. The second and most recent example is the jailing of three well noted reporters(Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed) by the Egyptian government who possessed the audacity to report negatively on the current administration and received an accusation that they supported The Muslim Brotherhood and a fifteen year jail sentence as their reward. Since this “judgment,” made in December, Egypt has been condemned for this barbaric measure, and any who possess any kind of foresight understand the severity of this action. When the reporters and writers are silenced, it is all downhill. Being an individual with a voice, with a sense of self shall always be the greatest attack against the state. But let this not become a call to arms because there is nothing so repulsive as those who celebrate their own suffering. Instead let us consider the game.
Gordon and Meursault are both simple-minded and make mistakes. In the case of Meursault he kills an arab because he is blinded and bothered by the sun and his own sweat, while in the case of Gordon he begins an extra-marital affair. Both of these mistakes may seem as errors which break the integrity of their character but in fact both of these eventually lead to stronger development, because each man ultimately declare them. In the case of Meursault he never once attempts to deny his killing of the man,
“Of course I couldn’t help admitting that he was right. I didn’t feel much remorse for what I’d done. But I was surprised by how relentless he was. I would have liked to have tried explaining to him cordially, almost affectionately, that I had never truly felt remorse for anything.”
Did I not suggest in my last essay that murder cannot be justified in any way? I did, and I stand by that position. It is not the murder however that is essential to Meursault’s integrity, but his unwillingness to abandon his philosophical condition. He will not be dictated to, nor will he allow others to suggest the proper emotion he should be feeling. Once again Camus says it best.
A much more accurate idea of the character, or, at least one much closer to the author’s intentions, will emerge if one asks just how Meursault doesn’t play the game. The reply is a simple one; he refuses to lie. To lie is not only to say what isn’t true. It is also and above all, to say more than is true, and, as far as the human heart is concerned, to express more than one feels. This is what we all do, every day, to simplify life. He says what he is, he refuses to hide his feelings, and immediately society feels threatened. He is asked, for example, to say that he regrets his crime, in the approved manner. He replies that what he feels is annoyance rather than real regret. And this shade of meaning condemns him.
As I spoke before Gordon receives his reward for being an ethical “boy-scout” by having the proverbial snot beaten out of him as well as being given a reminder that his “wife is pregnant.” Rather than submitting to the will of the thuggish society he now inhabits, Gordon pursues his attackers and isolates the figure of influence, the afore-mentioned Flass. A fight ensues, but rather than killing, maiming, or torturing his adversary Gordon humiliates him by leaving him tied up and naked on the side of a well visited road. Gordon’s efforts in demonstrating his position to his attackers reveal a proper guideline of behavior. The individual will experience conflict, but rather than submitting to the harsh tactics of the society that so despises them, she or he must defeat them in the manner that best fits the situation. Rather than killing or maliciously beating Flass, Gordon humiliates him. Woe be to the man in power who must suffer the greatest of challenge to his authority: a joke at his own expense.
Both these stories illustrate instances in which the individual find themselves pitted against the overbearing weight of society. As I began, the sad truth of being an individual possessed with your own ideas and sense of self is a game in which society will punish you until your ideas conform, in some manner both extreme and lax, to their ultimate ideal. Texts such as The Stranger and Batman: Year One offer up opportunities in which we may observe the weight of integrity and what it’s worth. Both texts also offer up realistic portrayals of what can eventually happen to those who chose their integrity and will power over the mob. In the case of Jim Gordon there is suffering and pain and mistakes, but ultimately a kind of peace. In the case of Meursault, there will be incarceration, pain, and unfortunately society will terminate what they perceive to be a danger to the system.
Individual will, in my mind, stands as the ultimate test of the twenty-first century. We are currently in an age in which becoming an individual must be more than simple a profile status, it must become who we are to the core of our being. This is not an effort to completely damn societal cohesion, for culture and human connection is necessary to maintain survival. However we must each in our own power ensure that our opinions and ethics are entirely our own and without compromise. I will not promise that such a life will be smooth or easy, for the case of Meursault is evidence enough that some will lose the fight. Nevertheless the sacrifice of ourselves is an abomination for in essence, we have turned our back on everything we have built up to that moment. I will not say “soul,” for that is cheap and too pathetically grandiose, instead I will say that the sacrifice of our integrity is a sacrifice of our personal liberty and safety; for once we have abandoned that which gave us our self we have expelled any possibility for free will of action.
The Stranger is not just a title, but an identity assigned by those who recognize the power of choice and will do everything in their power to eradicate it.
The worst part is, they will not even ask if you would like a name-tag.